SIPTU has warned that the only long term solution to the ongoing hospital overcrowding and outpatient waiting list crisis is major Government investment in the recruitment of more front line health care workers. Responding to the speech by the Minister for Health, Leo Varadkar at the Fine Gael conference today, SIPTU Health Division Organiser, Paul Bell, said: “Providing 500 additional nursing posts is a positive move by the Minister and a vindication of the SIPTU campaign to lift the public service recruitment embargo but it is only a small step on the road to fully reversing the devastating impact funding cuts, reduced staffing levels and bed closures has had across our health service.” SIPTU member and health care assistant, Pamela Staunton, said that she and her colleagues have struggled, since the recruitment embargo was introduced, to maintain the standards expected by patients and their families. “We have been doing more for less for years now”, she said, “It’s good that we may be able to have some extra nurses on the wards but there are 10,000 less staff in the health service now than prior to the introduction of the embargo so 500 extra staff is only a drop in the ocean.  If the Government wants to deliver a better quality of care for patients and jobs for communities it must invest across the entire front line of the health service.” Stephen Quinn, a health care intern and SIPTU activist, said he supported the Minister’s sentiment in encouraging health care workers who emigrated to return to work in Ireland. However, he added: “Health care interns working throughout the health service have paid their dues and should be recognised, rewarded and regularised into permanent direct employment. “We were taken on initially to plug the gaps in the health service and now that the Minister has given us some hope with his commitment to recruit again, we believe our work should be rewarded.” Paul Bell added: “SIPTU insists that the minister secures the necessary funds to provide our health service with more front line health care staff. He must also spend taxpayers money sensibly on direct public service employment rather than propping up private for profit agencies that cannot possibly provide the continuity of care that patients or communities need or deserve.”